A duplex house is a residential property consisting of two separate units in a single building.

What is a Duplex?

An Essential Property Management Term

A duplex house is a residential property consisting of two separate units in a single building. Duplexes can vary in structure, but the most common orientation is to have two separate units side by side, each with their own entrance. It’s also possible to have a duplex consist of a downstairs unit and an upstairs unit, each with separate entrances.

Is a Duplex a Single-Family Home?

Because a duplex consists of two separate residential units, it is not considered a single-family home. As a landlord owning a duplex, it’s possible to rent out each side of the building to unrelated tenants with different leasing periods.

Pros of a Duplex

Duplexes offer a flexible option for property owners, whether they want to rent out both sides of the building or live in one half and rent out the other. 

Some upsides of owning a duplex include:

  • Although it’s two rental units, a duplex is only one property for you to maintain.
  • Renters may prefer it to a typical apartment, giving you a better chance of finding a great tenant.
  • With a single property purchase, you could have two tenants and thus generate more passive income each month.

Cons of a Duplex

Like any rental property purchase, not everything is gravy with a duplex. A lot about your rental experience can depend on the quality of your tenants, and here are a few downsides to owning and renting out a duplex:

  • One noisy or unruly tenant can ruin it for the other since they share some walls. 
  • You’ll have to define common spaces for the tenants, as well as how they’re to be used, such as parking spots or yard access.
  • Two rental units means more potential maintenance for you, the property owner.

Common Duplex Amenities

One major draw for tenants to rent a duplex is that it offers many of the best amenities that a typical single-family home has. These include:

  • A yard. This means you’ll likely receive applications from tenants with dogs. If you allow animals, pet fees are an additional source of income you could add to the monthly rent.
  • In-unit washer and dryer. Your renters will love not having to haul dirty clothes to the laundromat or a shared laundry room.
  • Parking. Whether it’s on-street parking or a garage is included, duplexes can offer a much better peace of mind for car owners over a crowded apartment complex’s parking garage.

Duplex vs. Single-Family Home

The major difference between a duplex and a single-family home is that a duplex is a single building consisting of two separate units. A single-family home is a single building consisting of one unit.

Duplex vs. Multifamily Home

A duplex is built to house two separate tenants, or groups of tenants, and thus it is considered a multifamily home. Multifamily homes are any buildings that are built to house 2 or more unrelated tenants.

Duplex vs. Apartment

An apartment is a single rental unit housed within a larger building consisting of many other separate rental units. Some apartment complexes consist of hundreds or even thousands of rental units. This is different from a duplex, which is a building only built to house two separate rental units.

Duplex vs. Condo

Condominiums, or condos, are privately owned units inside a building of other units. This is different from a duplex, which is a single building consisting of only two separate units, normally owned by a single owner.

Duplex vs. Townhouse

A townhouse is a living unit that shares only one or two walls with other units. Each townhouse has its own entrance and they’re typically multistory. Although a duplex can be multistory, it only consists of two units that sit either side by side or on top of one another and share walls with no other units.

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